Building a Business Plan for DSpace, MIT Libraries’ Digital Institutional Repository

Building a Business Plan for DSpace,
MIT Libraries’ Digital Institutional Repository
Mary R. Barton and Julie Harford Walker
MIT Libraries, DSpace Project
77 Massachusetts Avenue, Building 14S-216
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139-4307
Fax: (617) 253-8894
(617) 253-7746
(617) 258-8303
Key features References; Figures 1 Tables 1 2
This paper presents an overview of the methodology and results of the MIT Libraries’
business plan development project for DSpace (, MIT’s digital
institutional repository. The introductory section includes a description of DSpace, the
objectives of the business plan project, and the current status of the DSpace project. The
methodology section explains the process and tools with which the business plan was
developed. The remainder of the paper describes the results of the business plan project,
including the DSpace service definition, the cost model, potential funding sources, and
future DSpace plans.
Keywords: digital libraries, institutional repository, scholarly communication
1.0 Introduction
DSpace ( is MIT Libraries’ innovative institutional digital
repository designed to manage, host, preserve, and enable distribution of the scholarly
output of MIT’s faculty. Developed as a joint research project of the MIT Libraries and
Hewlett-Packard (HP) through invent@MIT, the HP-MIT Alliance, it reflects MIT’s
mission to “generate, disseminate and preserve knowledge” and provides MIT faculty
with a stable long-term storage and content management system to house their digitally
formatted work.
DSpace was developed in response to expressed faculty needs for an easy-to-use,
dependable repository that accommodates a broad range of formats. It is intended to
provide a solid foundation for the collection of digital material from around the Institute.
MIT Libraries hold a non-exclusive license to distribute and preserve items but do not
own the DSpace content.
DSpace has been developed by the MIT Libraries as a continuation of their mission to
collect, make available, and preserve important scholarly material of all kinds, especially
that of MIT’s own faculty and research community. The Libraries are working to extend
their services into the digital era, to reflect current trends in scholarly communication and
education, and to offer new means of distributing research material that are enabled by
network technology. It is incumbent upon libraries to develop strategic and economic
plans for the preservation and usability of those resources over time. Analogous to print
materials, digital library initiatives require cost-benefit considerations that must be
carefully weighed against other library priorities.
An award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in April 2000 provided the MIT
Libraries with a unique opportunity to examine business issues as they apply to the
Libraries’ newly developed DSpace service. In this report we will share an overview of
how MIT Libraries developed a business plan to transform its DSpace research project
into a sustainable technology platform and service administered by MIT Libraries and
adopted by the Institute’s producers and consumers of digital scholarly materials. We
also will share the Libraries’ plan for a collaborative Federation of DSpace systems at
other universities and cultural heritage institutions.
This plan is a snapshot of our business strategy in Fall 2002 and one that is evolving as
more users adopt the service. It reflects the organizational and technical infrastructure
and resources of MIT. Other institutions interested in implementing the DSpace system
will be able to scale it to match the needs and resources of their own organizations,
creating a repository with the scope of digital formats and the scale of content that
address their constituent’s needs. MIT Libraries designed DSpace as an Open Source
( system that could be licensed without cost or restriction to
other institutions to extend the DSpace technology into "a federation of systems [that]
makes available the collective intellectual resources of the world's leading research
1.1 DSpace Status
Four early adopter research Communities at MIT have been using the DSpace service
since February 2002 to test and demonstrate the viability of the submission process.
DSpace was officially launched to Communities throughout MIT in September 2002
when worldwide access to the contents also became available. The DSpace source code
was made available in November 2002 to Federation partners and other interested
research universities under an Open Source license.
2.0 Business Plan Methodology
We developed the DSpace business plan collaboratively with the DSpace Transition
Planning Group, a group of leaders from MIT Libraries staff, the DSpace development
team and MIT’s Information Systems organization. The Transition Planning Group was
charged with outlining the operational, policy, marketing, management and staffing plans
for the Libraries’ DSpace service. The work of this group is represented heavily
throughout our business plan.
We should also note that because DSpace is the first service of its kind, we chose to be
conservative in our modeling. Rather than attempt to make speculative projections about
the growth of the system, our model allows funding to provide for limited, manageable
growth. Our model also reflects the need to manage costs and the impact of DSpace on
existing library resources, a key factor in the design of the DSpace service definition. We
were unable to find literature on any other business model for a comparable, library
based, institutional service.
Another group, the Early Adopter Librarians task force, staffed with Subject Specialists
from each of the Libraries, provided additional insight into DSpace’s potential user base
from their direct interactions with faculty members. This group also was key in
understanding the organizational impact that the implementation of DSpace would have
on Libraries staff.
Our review of digital library and related solutions, both for-profit and non-profit, revealed
a highly fragmented market with individual initiatives selecting different aspects of the
problem to address and different means to achieve solutions. We learned that the need
for institutional repositories is widespread based on the multitude of new projects and the
inquiries we received from other universities. We were able to develop an understanding
of how institutionally based digital repositories like DSpace can best respond to the needs
of institutional constituents. We confirmed that DSpace is relatively unique in that there
are no other institutionally based repositories that invite the breadth of file formats, have
digital preservation as an explicit objective, and provide a flexible, decentralized
community-based submission process.
We administered a survey to the tenure track faculty of MIT in order to learn about their
perceptions and anticipated use of DSpace. Respondents were roughly representative of
the overall Institute’s department and tenure mix. Our findings served as a means to
validate aspects of the DSpace Service Definition, which is covered in more detail later in
this report.
We developed a cost model to capture the full economic cost of operating DSpace
including staff impact, space, hardware and other Libraries resources, only some of
which will result in differential cash flows. The remaining costs are important to capture
for MIT Libraries’ planning purposes. We gathered data from the Transition Planning
Group staffing model, HP, MIT Libraries’ records and MIT central accounting. Our
model is designed to reflect the costs of operating DSpace; therefore we specifically
ignore system development costs. The costs of implementation within MIT Libraries are
also ignored. Because DSpace is the first of its kind our costs of implementation would
not necessarily be replicated by federating institutions.
We also examined possible funding opportunities to offset the costs of operating the
system. We took into consideration MIT Libraries’ goals to make the system freely
accessible to both submitters and consumers of content. Using the service definition and
cost model as a guide to the potential scope and scale of the system, we sought to
maintain a balance between rapidly advancing the system and minimizing costs.
3.0 The DSpace Service
The DSpace Service is divided into two main areas:
Core Services, which are available at no charge to Community members and
consumers of DSpace content; and
Premium Services, which are specialized services designed to meet the
extraordinary needs of Community members and may be offered on a fee for
service basis.
DSpace Services
Interactive Services
Operations Services
Community Mgmt.
Community Support
System Mgmt.
Premium Services
Custom Repository
User Reporting
Figure 1. DSpace Services
DSpace Core Services are comprised of two distinct but interconnected service
elements, Interactive Services and Operations Services. DSpace Interactive Services offer
a fully functional system that allows DSpace Community members and consumers of
DSpace content to accomplish all tasks necessary to submit and access items in DSpace,
as applicable. Additionally, MIT Libraries provide Operations Services to host and
preserve faculty materials, establish and deliver ongoing support for DSpace
Communities, respond to customer inquiries, and supply system monitoring, back up, and
From early feedback that we received, we anticipated that DSpace communities or
individual faculty members may put extraordinary demands on the service such as
sizeable storage requirements or assistance with specialized metadata creation. MIT
Libraries plan to offer Premium Services to ensure that DSpace offers a full set of
resources to meet faculty and researcher’s needs and to manage the impact of these
exceptional resource requirements on Libraries staff and DSpace resources. MIT
Libraries reserves the right to introduce Premium Services fees as needed to aid in cost
recovery. We do not speculate on the growth of the services, they will be introduced as
library resources allow. Neither do we speculate on revenues generated, as it would be
an inappropriate representation of these services as for-profit when the fees charges
would merely cover the costs of providing them.
Further definition of the Premium Services and market validation of the demand is being
explored as DSpace is adopted campus-wide. Libraries traditionally have fostered open
accessibility to information resources. Fee-based Premium Services are a departure from
the typical approach to library services and one that requires careful consideration before
implementing. The potential Premium Services areas identified thus far have been
divided into the following categories:
• E-Conversion Services – creation of digital content from non-digital materials
and custom, on-demand transformation of materials from one format to another
• Metadata Services – needs assessments, feasibility studies, advice on appropriate
taxonomies, metadata crosswalks, metadata creation and support services, etc.
• Custom Repository Services – expansion of standard DSpace storage allocations
to meet Community or individual’s requirements that exceed normal limits
• User Reporting Services – research alert services, targeted notification services,
hot topic citations, and custom reporting services
4.0 Cost Model
DSpace differs from other digital library initiatives in that it captures content and
descriptive metadata directly from the creators through a distributed web-based
submission process. Self-defined subsets of the MIT academic and research community
(such as schools, labs, centers, or departments) will determine for themselves what
research materials may be submitted. This experimental approach is a shift in the way
that Libraries have traditionally managed their information assets, giving faculty
members more control over what materials are collected and how they are described and
shared with readers. It also distributes a portion of the collection management costs to
the research Communities.
Our cost model was developed to assist MIT Libraries in staff planning, understanding
the budget necessary to sustain DSpace and the factors that may significantly affect our
projections. Therefore it is necessarily a forward-looking analysis and is presented from
the Libraries’ perspective. In order to estimate costs we consider the changes that the
implementation of DSpace has made in staff, support services, space and hardware
requirements thus far and how we expect their impact on total costs will change with
growth of the system.
Growth projections are based on current staffing, increasing only at 4% per year, the
average wage and benefit increase over the last ten years at MIT. Because of our need to
control costs carefully we estimate that we can serve the broad number of researchers at
MIT with growth to 3TB storage in three years. Beyond three years we considered any
projections on storage needs to be far too speculative. The Digital Libraries Research
Group at MIT is continuing to develop projections and we look to other ongoing research
as well.
We classified costs according to how they will be allocated to DSpace relative to the
overall Libraries’ budget, and present the FY2003 estimates.
Costs that will create new expense categories:
• Two new dedicated staff
• Minimal operating expenses
• System equipment escrow
All Incremental costs represent actual cash flows.
• Prorated salary and benefits for existing library staff
with an anticipated DSpace allocation greater than
• Additional operating expenses
• Travel
• Prorated salary and benefits for staff with an
anticipated DSpace allocation greater than 5%
Table 1. DSpace Cost Classifications
We then reported the allocation of Incremental, Principal and Comprehensive costs as
applicable in traditional accounting categories: Staff, Operating Expense, and System
Staff Salaries and Benefits
Operating Expenses
System Equipment Escrow
All affected staff at various allocations,
including benefits
General office, PCs, travel, Information
Systems SLA
Allows for growth to 3TB in 3 years at
today’s prices
Table 2. DSpace Budget Allocations
4.1 Staff Salaries and Benefits
The Transition Planning Group members tasked with the staffing plan conducted
interviews with a broad range of staff members throughout the Libraries and categorized
the impact of DSpace on individual staff members from minimal to high. We used the
results of the Transition Planning Group’s staffing plan as input data for staffing costs,
translating the impact levels to staff allocation percentages.
The Libraries recognize that the ability to foster and respond to rapid early growth
effectively will be critical to the acceptance of DSpace by MIT Communities. Although
the skills required to run DSpace exist among current Libraries staff, it was determined
that relying exclusively on existing staff would provide a service far too fragmented for
success and, thus, the Libraries determined that DSpace will be staffed with two new
dedicated staff, a DSpace User Support Manager and a DSpace Systems Manager. Costs
for these positions, including staff salaries and benefits, office supplies and equipment are
included in Incremental costs.
All other staff impacted by DSpace were categorized into either Principal or
Comprehensive costs according to their estimated allocation. For example, the Associate
Director for Technology and the Systems Office staff were allocated as Principal costs
because their anticipated DSpace time allocation is greater than 20 percent. Public
Service staff, who interact significantly with the Libraries’ users and answer questions
about the Libraries’ electronic resources, were accounted for under Comprehensive costs,
in the interest of understanding the full impact of DSpace on Libraries’ planning and the
contribution of the existing MIT Libraries infrastructure.
4.2 Operating Expenses
Incremental Operating Expenses include offices supplies and expenses for the dedicated
staff and the Information Systems Service Level Agreement fees. Principal Operating
Expenses include staff travel, conference fees and other meeting expenses.
4.3 System Equipment Escrow
We outlined growth scenarios to our development partners at HP and worked with an HP
hardware expert and a representative from MIT’s Information Systems organization who
helped us develop alternatives for scaling the DSpace system. The cost estimates were
based on HP hardware costs and are included in Incremental Expenses. Other vendors
may have higher or lower costs associated with hardware to meet these same
MIT Libraries is well positioned to delay any major hardware purchases until the actual
growth of the system is better understood. As we gather data on the usage of DSpace, the
DSpace User Support Manager will be studying the demands on the DSpace system in
terms of cumulative content. Based on our current best estimates of typical demand, the
hardware donated by HP is more than sufficient to handle the anticipated transaction
volume, is well configured for disaster recovery, and can scale to store approximately 3
terabytes (TB) of data with the purchase of additional disks. DSpace was architected
with scalability in mind. The storage is decoupled from the web interactive services such
that the two can be scaled independently. We do not anticipate growth in the application
services; our cost estimates therefore reflect growth only in storage.
4.4 Federation Note
Our model reflects costs specific to MIT, where DSpace will be implemented as a fullscale digital repository in an organization with access to MIT’s robust information
systems architecture but with limited excess resources. However, DSpace is a fully
scalable system, operable on an individual personal computer and DSpace code will be
offered at no charge through an Open Source license. The costs that a federating
institution may incur in the implementation and operation of DSpace are a factor of the
intended use of the system (e.g. a pre print document server or a multimedia content
repository), current staff availability, institution size and research output, and information
systems resources. For example, DSpace implemented as a pre-print server in a small
university or department may add little or no costs in the Incremental category.
5.0 Funding Sources
MIT Libraries plans to offer DSpace Core Services free of charge to all registered
Community members to encourage widespread adoption of the system among faculty and
researchers. The DSpace content is provided free of charge to the public. This
necessitates that MIT Libraries find sources other than user or subscription fees to
support the ongoing operations of the DSpace service.
We propose a funding model, which is anticipated in our cost model, for MIT Libraries
that is supported by a number of resources in the form of financial support or in-kind
1. Institutional Support: MIT Libraries intend to seek support from MIT in the
Libraries’ annual operating budget. The total annual cost of operating DSpace,
including new storage to accommodate projected annual submissions, currently
represents less than 2% of the Libraries annual budget. The DSpace service is an
extension of the Libraries’ traditional role of capturing the scholarly record of the
Institute and provides a single managed solution that is more advantageous for
faculty and research communities that currently have to develop and manage ad
hoc solutions on their own such as individual web sites.
2. Collaborative Development: HP, MIT Libraries, the MIT Lab for Computer
Science and the World Wide Web Consortium, have begun a three-year research
project, SIMILE, using the DSpace platform and content as a test bed to explore
interoperability of complex community-defined metadata schemas. Funding for
this project came from invent@MIT, the HP-MIT Alliance, and applicable
research results will be migrated into the operational DSpace system.
3. Federation: The DSpace Federation will leverage the distributed expertise of
Federation partners and capture their enhancements (e.g. in the areas of digital
collection management, preservation, cross-institute system interoperability and
scholarly communications) as new system development under Open Source
guidelines. Collaborative development across universities will allow the system
to advance far more rapidly than would be possible in a single instantiation.
4. Premium Services: MIT Libraries reserve the right to charge for Premium
Services as a means to meet extraordinary user requests while controlling the
impact on the Libraries’ scarce resources. Those services for which MIT
Libraries are the sole source provider, such as Custom Repository Services, or
clearly can establish added value over other competitive services offer an
opportunity for cost recovery by the Libraries.
6.0 Future Plans
The Cambridge/MIT Institute, a cooperative venture between Cambridge University and
MIT supported by the British government, is providing the funding for a series of
seminars designed to explore the issues presented in this paper in detail. The series,
offered to senior library managers of HE and FE institutions in the UK, will begin in
September 2003 and is meant to foster further discussion and provide participants with all
of the information necessary to complete actionable business plans for a digital
institutional repository within their own institution, regardless of software platform
Additionally, CMI has provided funding for the first federated implementation of DSpace
in the U.K. at Cambridge University. The project began in November 2002 and will
focus on developing interoperability, supporting digital course materials, and using the
digital content of DSpace as a test bed for digital preservation techniques.
MIT also has six Federation partners (Columbia University, Cornell University, Ohio
State University, the University of Rochester, the University of Toronto, and the
University of Washington) to be sponsored under a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon
Foundation. Beginning in November 2002, these universities will install and evaluate the
DSpace system in their university environments and work with MIT to develop
Federation organizational, governance and business models for the long-term
management and maintenance of the open source system for the benefit of all member
7.0 Conclusion and Next Steps
Strategic, economic, and organizational issues are significant challenges that must be
considered for a successful implementation of an institutional repository. Institute
support, strong library leadership, and business and operational planning conducted in
parallel with the research and development process were of paramount importance. As
DSpace matures and we gather user feedback and usage data, this business model will
evolve. Our Federation partners also will contribute to our understanding of the costs of
institutional repositories. We plan a series of seminars to be funded by the
Cambridge/MIT Institute, and offered to universities and other cultural heritage
institutions in the UK. The series is designed to provide the necessary framework to
develop individual business plan to implement digital repositories in each participant’s
respective institution, regardless of platform. Further we hope to foster collaborative
discussion regarding best practices in digital library development. All of these activities
will be used to inform future modifications of our business model.
Fleishauer, Carol, Mary Barton, Margret Branschofsky, Dan Chudnov, Catherine
Friedman, Keith Glavash, Carl Jones, Jeff Merriman, Sarah Mitchell, MacKenzie Smith,
Megan Sniffin-Marinoff, Julie Harford Walker. “Report of the DSpace Transition
Planning Group to the MIT Libraries Steering Committee.” Cambridge, MA., 19 April
Hedstrom, Margaret. Digital preservation: a time bomb for Digital Libraries. Available
from World Wide Web: (
“Dublin Core Metadata Initiative Overview.” Available from World Wide Web:
Author Information:
Mary R. Barton and Julie H. Walker were hired by MIT Libraries under an Andrew W.
Mellon Foundation grant to create a sustainable business plan for DSpace. Barton holds
a B.S. in Economics with a concentration in Finance from the Georgia Institute of
Technology and earned her MBA in Finance from the MIT Sloan School of Management.
Walker holds a B.S. in Management with a dual concentration in marketing and
information systems from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and earned her MBA from the
MIT Sloan School of Management.
For information about the CMI sponsored Seminar Series, contact Mary Barton,
For more information about the implementation of DSpace at Cambridge University,
contact Julie Walker,
For more information about the DSpace Federation project, contact MacKenzie Smith,